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Islam – What is Nafs (ego)?

The ego (nafs) is the lowest dimension of man’s inward existence, his animal and satanic nature.

 

There are two kinds of people, one are those who’s Nafs have overcome them and led them to ruin because they yielded to them and obeyed their impulses. The other kinds are those who have overcometheir Nafs and made them obey their commands.

 

 

The prophet Muhammad (Sallahu Alihi Wa Sallam) said after returning from a war,

 

“We now return from the small struggle [Jihad Asghar] to the big struggle [Jihad Akbar]”.

 

His companions asked,

 

“Oh prophet of God, what is the big struggle?”.

 

He (PBUH) replied,

 

“The struggle against Nafs”.

 

 

Nafs has seven heads that must be chopped off:

 

1. False Pride (Takabbur)

2. Greed (Hirs)

3. Jealousy (Hasad)

4. Lust (Shahwah)

5. Back Biting (Gheebah)

6. Stinginess (Bokhl)

7. Malice (Keena)

 

 

There are seven stages of Nafs

 

1) The Commanding Self (nafs al-ammara)

 

In its primitive stage, the ego tells one to commit evil.

 

This is the Nafs that brings punishment itself by pleasure seeking and childish behavior. By its very nature it directs its owner towards every wrong action. No one can get rid of its evil without the help from Allah.

 

Nafs ul Ammara is the worst category of nafs, in which a person not only commits sin but boasts of his sins and thus challenges Allah. This is an animalistic nafs that does not care about anything or anyone, least about pleasing.

 

In this man follows his desires and not care about Allah’s restrictions.

 

Characteristics of an-nafs al-ammara are amongst others:

greed, frivolity, pride, the wish to be famous, jealousy and the lack of any higher consciousness.

 

 

2) The Blaming Self (nafs al-lawwama)

 

This nafs manifest the voice of consciousness and blames itself. On this stage, person feels shame when it commits sins and repents to Allah.This Nafs is conscious of its own imperfections.

 

Its characteristics are amongst others:

disapproval, reflection, contraction and self- appraisal.

 

 

3) The Inspired Self (nafs al mulhimah)

 

This state of soul differentiates between right and wrong with the help of logic and reason and creates balance.

 

On this level “one becomes more firm in listening to one’s conscience, but is not yet surrendered.” Once you have seen your weaknesses and have set your targets, this ego inspires you to do good deeds and to be on the plus side.

 

Characteristics of this are amongest others:

inspired soul or self aredetachment, satisfaction (qana’at), knowledge, humility, repentance, patience and perseverance.

 

 

4) The Satisfied Self (nafs al mutmainnah)

 

This is the ideal stage of ego for Muslims. On this level one is firm in one’s faith and leaves bad manners behind.

 

In this stage, the indvidual will be relieved himself of all materialism and world problems and would be satisfied with the will of God. It has been rectified and trained to obey Allah.

 

Only the special lovers of Allah who have struggled their whole lives against their nafs are so blessed. This type of nafs now remains preoccupied with the sunnah and other ways by which to please Allah.

 

Moreover, people with this type of nafs not only run from sin but Allah protects them from sin and keeps them on the path of the shariah. This nafs struggles so hard to improve itself that Allah will admit it into Paradise on the Day of Judgment.

 

Its characteristics are amongst others:

generosity, trust in God, wisdom, devotion, gratitude and contentment (rida)

 

 

5) The Consenting Self (nafs al radiyah)

 

On this level “one is pleased with whatever comes from Allah and doesn’t live in the past or future, but in the moment.” One always sees oneself as weak and in need of Allah.

 

Its characteristics are amongst others:

asceticism, sincerity, scrupulousness, the letting go of everything which is not of your concern and loyalty.

 

 

6) The Consent-Given Self (nafs al mardiyyah)

 

One is soft and tolerant with people and has good Akhlaq, good manners.

 

Its characteristics are

a noble character, the letting go of everything but God, subtlety and service towards other creatures, to be in the nearness of God, meditation upon the divine power and the acceptance of everything as decided by God.

 

 

7) The Purified Self (nafs al safiyyah)

 

On this level “one is dressed in the attributes of the Insan Kamil, the perfected man, who is completely surrendered and inspired by Allah.” One is “in full agreement with the Will of Allah”.

 

This soul/self which has realized perfection manifests all the positive qualities as mentioned above. And more than that.

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